Thursday, June 21, 2018

The history of software patents explained on Ars Technica




Timothy B. Lee has a very long (booklet-length) article in Ars Technica, “Why the Supreme Court’s Software Patent Ban Didn’t Last”.
  
This would also fit well on Electronic Frontier Foundation’s series on stupid patents.
  
The article stresses a couple of historical decisions, Flook in 1978, and Alice in 2014.  The Federal Circuit has generally been more friendly to questionable patents than the Supreme Court itself.
  
True, a mathematical theorem (Pythagorean, or the 4-color problem, or Liouville's) or formula (quadratic, like in Algebra 1) can’t be patented. Nor can a well established computer programming method today (I would wonder right off whether methods in an OOP java library can be patented, unclear) 

  
Somewhere, when solving a problem in the real world with real objects uses math, it can be. Jack Andraka’s patent app (2014), documented on Google (based originally on a science fair project that won a contest in 2013) depends on real world biology and various other objects (nanotubes), however “simple”.  But the purported “process” has to work (here, medically) and get approved by the FDA.

Friday, June 15, 2018

No, you can't patent a mathematical formula (even a new law of physics)



EFF’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” in May, by Joe Mullin, says, “Facebook joins the online dating arms race”.  What’s even funnier is that it stresses relationships, not just hookups. This idea could well be motivated in part by the passage of FOSTA in March, which makes promotion of any kind of hookup online border on prostitution aka trafficking, and legally risky. Yet, Facebook wants its member to interact, not just talk at each other, right?

Tim Lee, of Ars Technica, has a series of tweets regarding software patents, saying that the Supreme Court has ruled that they don’t make sense until Congress says they do. There is also some commentary on whether mathematical formulas can be patented – no, they can’t.  I suggested to Tim that he send this over to EFF for a “stupid patent of the month” essay.
  
My favorite stupid patent is my own color coding scheme for identifying screenplay elements, and putting them into a table.  But I gave it away free in a blog. Other authors (including one doing a graphic novel aka movie proposal) could use it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Does one's own social media page impart a personal brand? Does raising money for "other people's causes" dilute that brand?



Just a note on my own sense of branding.

Sometimes Facebook friends have approached me to run fundraisers on my own Facebook page for them.

I feel that my public “brand” is about reporting things and analyzing them, but not on playing favorites on asking people for money for very narrow and specific causes or specific people.  So I don’t generally do this with my social media pages or sites.

I do make my charitable donations to organizations through a trust (which is explained in more detail on a Wordpress blog).  I will generally try to find an organization that can help a particular cause or group and make the donations privately, although I am likely to report on the organization on my social media or blogs.

The latest case concerned a journalist falsely imprisoned (probably) in a Latin American country.  
  
 The appropriate charity (for foreign legal defense) is CPJ.